Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:10 PM ET, 03/19/2009

Jonathan Cohn writes in the New Republic about how "health care reform, against what occasionally seemed like long odds, managed to find a sizeable place in Obama's budget....Particularly in Obama's absence, the voices of the skeptics often predominated....And health care, in the end, might have gotten pushed aside--except that one very senior official in the administration kept insisting that it stay on the agenda. That official was Obama himself." Cohn concludes: "Obama is not always as cautious as he might seem. He can think big. He can take risks. And he can bring his advisers to him--rather than the other way around."

Jackie Kucinich writes for Roll Call: "The House Republican Study Committee sent its members a series of talking points this week to try to present a united front against Democratic policies and label the Obama administration as 'disingenuous, unfocused, and reckless.'"

Robert Pear writes in the New York Times: "Under withering criticism from veterans and Congress, President Obama on Wednesday abandoned a proposal that would have required veterans to use their private health insurance to pay for the treatment of combat-related injuries."

Josh Meyer and Scott Glover write in the Los Angeles Times: "U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot dispensaries that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states -- a development that medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians hailed as a sweeping change in federal drug policy."

David Johnston and Neil A. Lewis write in the New York Times that Holder also told reporters yesterday that the Justice Department "was 'monitoring' developments related to accusations of abuse of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, but stopped short of endorsing the appointment of a special prosecutor. 'We will let the law and facts take us to wherever we need to go,' he said."

Barack Obama writes in Time Magazine that "government alone is not the answer to the challenges we face. Yes, our government must rebuild our schools, but we also need people to serve as mentors and tutors in those schools. Yes, our government must modernize our health-care system, but we also need people to volunteer in our hospitals and communities to care for the sick and help people lead healthier lives. Yes, our government must maintain the finest military in the history of the world, but that is only possible if brave men and women across America sign up to serve in that military...So I hope that you will stand up and do what you can to serve your community, shape our history and enrich both your own life and the lives of others across this country."

Garance Franke-Ruta blogs for The Washington Post: "Disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of the Senate for Barack Obama's final year as a U.S. senator show that, as he spent 2008 campaigning for president, he earned nearly $2.5 million in royalties from the sale of his books. And he added $500,000 more on Jan. 15, just before taking office as president, when he signed a deal for 'an abridged version of Dreams from My Father suitable for middle grade or young adult readers.'"

Mark Silva blogs for Tribune: "The presidential debut on comedic TV tonight carries certain risks and rewards - the risk of immersing in levity in the midst of economic calamity, the reward of piercing the bubble of the presidency to communicate directly with a very large audience." Obama's planned appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno later today is a first for a sitting president on any comedic program, Silva writes.

David Hinckley writes in the New York Daily News: "In a way, hearing Leno quiz Obama on the merits of federal employment stimulation is like having David Gregory invite Simon Cowell onto 'Meet the Press.' It just isn't what the room was built for. On the other hand, this is also old-school thinking, because for years the media has been collectively dismantling whatever walls had traditionally been constructed between serious public discourse on important socio-political matters and pure entertainment."

Jake Tapper blogs for ABC News: "Well, here's another way President Obama has put his historic stamp on the presidency. With no fanfare or media attention, President Obama last month added a new decoration to the Oval Office: a 12 5/8' bronze bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr."

Martin C. Evans writes for Newsday: "On the evening of March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush gave a four-minute address from the Oval Office, announcing that the nation had gone to war to topple the regime of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Six years and a presidential election later, more than 130,000 troops remain in Iraq. And although President Barack Obama has said he will withdraw all but 50,000 troops by August 2010, more than 4,250 U.S. troops have died there so far."

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